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This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Audio/Visual: sound, b&w
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Dust Bowl
I've seen this before on TCM, but just watched it again after watching Ken Burn's "The Dust Bowl" on PBS. This was premiered in, I think, Dalhart, Texas and was not well received by many of the area residents because they didn't want to acknowledge that their farming techniques had caused this huge problem.
The Dust Bowl was a man made disaster. Unfortunately, it could happen again because many farmers of the Great Plains are using water from the major aquifer that provides water for the area to grow crops that require much more water than is supplied by rainfall. At the end of Burn's documentary, there was one man who estimated that the aquifer may provide water for crops for another 20-25 years.
The reason for the abrupt ending is, in 1936, no one really knew if there were any answers to fixing this problem or would the US have a Sahara Desert cutting through the middle of the nation. There were experiments going on with terrace farming, but they were in the early stages at this time.
There were concerns about another Dust Bowl happening in the early 1950s, but because there had been some land reclaimed with native grasses, things did not get out of hand like it did in the 1930s.
Subject: This is a must see
Thank you for making this available. I second the suggestion that upon seeing this you owe it to yourself to read "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan. This is an important piece of american history that is little taught, although I suppose that may be my impression growing up on the west coast. It may be well taught in the plains states. The ties in this tale to manifest destiny are clear, important, and, I believe, still relevant today. The dot-com boom, the real estate boom, you name it, we're no different today from the wheat speculators of the 20's and 30's. It's enmeshed in our American psyche unlike no other culture. We believe that it is our right, or I dare say, our obligation, to push to get ahead. Personally, I believe that this is a good thing.
As to the critique of this film related to it's abrupt conclusion, I think you have to understand, that it was produced to bring light to the problem, not to provide a solution. In fact, according to Timothy Egan's book,(noted above), the solution to the continual erosion of the plains and the ensuing dust storms had yet to be figured out at the time of this film. Yes, there were individuals, in fact a government program to try a combination of contour plowing and replanting of drought resistant grasses to attempt to restore the prairie grasslands and stem the erosion, but this was entirely untested and quite an experimental solution at the time.
Take this documentary in context, including it's propaganda ties to Roosevelt's re-election campaign, and enjoy this priceless look at depression era america.
Thanks again for sharing.
Subject: Compliment to Egan's book.
Great film with historical value! Students reading The Grapes of Wrath would also benefit from reading Timothy Egan's book, The Worst Hard Time. This documentary film is a great supplement to literary study. The authentic visuals and the nice narration of this short film will give the students a picture of great propoganda, insight, and historical value. Have students read Steinbeck's series of articles entitled "The Harvest Gypsies" for more insight into the plight of those who left for california.
Subject: read the book
For anyone watching this....please read the book "The worst hard time" by Timothy Egan Amazing and truthful...post your thoughts..
Subject: The Plow that Broke the Plains
This is an important historical document on several levels. It shows the state of the art in the documentary and the political orientation of government civil servants of its day. It includes some of the best raw footage of the environment and agricultural practices in the American West. The soundtrack by Virgil Thomson connects the otherwise dry narration with many important themes and trends in American society.
"The Plow that Broke the Plains" connects the booming World War I economy to the environmental crisis that followed. I therefore find showing this film helpful in teaching the complex economic causes for many environmental problems. The film does not provide answers, and subsequent research has provided new insights on the Dust Bowl crisis.
Subject: Yes, And??
I saw the first inclination of this short last year, and refrained to put a review up, as it was ONLY part I, and it didn't really resolve anything. Well, guess what? I finally saw the whole thing, (Part II was only 2 mins?) and it STILL doesnt resolve anything. The story of the modern wheatfield is told here, from the wild west frontier where cows grazed freely, to the great migration out west, to war production, then to the dust bowl problem. Problem is, the film totally ends abruptly, with nothing to say what is being done, what the farmer has to do, or anything. This sort of has a Grapes Of Wrath ending to it, except without the optimism (whatever amount that that had lol)